Phillies Hit Bottom

If 1903 was bad, 1904 was even worse; the Phillies lost 100 games and finished dead last, after a dispirited battle for the bottom with the Brooklyn Superbas and the Boston Beaneaters, 53 ½ games behind John McGraw’s New York Giants. Chief Zimmer was out and Hugh Duffy in as Phillies’ manager. Duffy, the long-time Boston Beaneater centerfielder was best known for his 1894 season when he hit an astounding .440. It may be recalled that 1894 was the year the Phillies had four outfielders hit over .400 and Billy Hamilton scored 195 runs. Boston scored 1220 runs that year in a 132-game schedule prompting the question: what kind of rabbit juice was squirted into 1894 baseballs?

Hughie could have used a little juice for his 1904 Phillies who could plate only 571 runs in a 154-game schedule. Nobody hit .300 and the pitching was dreadful. A bright spot was 19-year-old outfielder Sherry Magee who had 30 extra base hits and led the team in RBIs with 57 in only 387 plate appearances. Catcher Red Dooin, who had but 10 homeruns in a 15-year career, hit six in 1904.        

And then there was 35-year old John McPherson. Other than a four-inning appearance in 1901, this was the only year he pitched in the Major Leagues. But he had some tales to tell his grandchildren. Listen my children and you shall hear – about the April 19th day in Philadelphia when Johnny Mac went toe-to-toe for 15 innings in a darkness-ended 1-1 tie with New York Giants’ Iron Man Joe McGinnity who would go 35-8 on the season. Or the June 22nd day in Brooklyn, a 13 inning, 1-0 victory, the only McPerson win in a 1-12 season, and a 1-13 career.

It was about this time in baseball history when the spit ball, emery ball, and all manner of doctored pitches began to harass the already beleaguered hitters. Maybe the spit ball would have helped John McPherson. Or not. One guy who didn’t need any trick pitches was the Giants’ Christy Mathewson, although who knows what he was putting on his famous “fadeaway”. Matty was a prime reason why his team won pennants in 1904 and 1905, then three straight from 1911 to 1913. Indicative of his power was the October, 1904 game when he struck out 16 St.Louis Cardinals in a 3-1 win that was completed in one hour and 15 minutes. Mathewson was so dominant (33-12) that when the Phillies’ Chick Fraser (14-24) beat him 12-1 on April 21, the specter of gamblers’ influenced games was raised.

Another proud Phillies’ 1904 moment (there were so few), was the July 5th 6-5 win that broke an 18-game Giants’ winning streak. At that halfway point in the season, the Giants were 53-18, and McGraw scoffed at the idea of  a post-season faceoff against the AL champion. He said: “When we clinch the National League, we’ll be champions of the only real major league team.” 

In 1904 there was no World’s Series.      

By max blue
Billy Hamilton, Chief Zimmer, Hugh Duffy, John McPherson, Philadelphia Phillies, Red Dooin, Sherry Magee


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